In my last article, I talked about how Kyle was different after Kurt was born. The first week Kyle showed changes in his behavior, I thought it was just a passing phase and it will be ok. After two weeks, I started to worry that Kyle won’t go back to normal. I wondered if I’ll get my happy and active Kyle back so I started reading about it. I realized that all the changes I saw in him – refusing to eat, getting irritable, not wanting to go to school, grinding his teeth, sleeping with us – they’re all normal. Most of the parenting blogs I read shared the same things. Their kids went through that, too.
What other people might interpret as jealousy is mostly Kyle’s insecurity about my love for him. Where I used to give him a lot of attention, ngayon may kahati na sya (now he has to share the attention). I think that’s the part that he’s more worried about. He wants to feel secure that my love for him has not changed.
To make your child feel secure, it’s important that you communicate well with your child. For me, with Kyle, I explain to him on a daily basis that he doesn’t need to feel bad. Mommy will always love him. Your child needs to feel secure and communication is a very important ingredient in that. I let Kyle understand the situation at home, na may kapatid na sya (that he has a sibling now). I explain what it means to be a kuya (big brother). I’d also ask him to help me out once in a while, especially when I’m resting. I’d say, “Can you help mommy check out baby? Can you see if baby is ok or if baby is hungry?” Slowly, he’ll get it. There was one time Kyle came running into my room saying, “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” I asked what happened and he said, “Baby is crying! I think you need to feed him.” That showed me how Kyle is starting to adjust to his new role in the family.
Second, you need to spend quality time with your firstborn. When Kyle is in school, I spend more time with the baby. Once Kyle is home, I treat him the same way I did before Kurt was born. Wala syang kahati (He doesn’t have to share the attention). I also told Kyle that once I’m better and I’ve recovered from giving birth, I want us to go out. When I mentioned this, Kyle was actually thinking of bringing Kurt. I told him that Kurt is still a baby, he can’t go out yet. The bigger message, though, was “Mommy wants to spend time with you.” This makes him feel secure and he realizes, “Even with the baby, mommy still loves me.” I think that’s the first thing he worries about. It’s normal for most kids to think that the love of the parents is divided. It should be framed in a way that the child sees it’s just a different kind of love. Your love for the new baby should not affect your love for your first child. That’s my goal every time I deal with Kyle.
I also tried to avoid major changes in Kyle’s routine just because we have Kurt. As much as possible, kami yun nag-adjust (we were the ones who adjusted). This is so he won’t blame Kurt when we can’t do certain things. I’m trying to avoid the thinking, “because Kurt”. If there are things that Kyle wants but we can’t do because of the baby, I’ll try to reframe the reason. I’ll explain and find other reasons that don’t involve Kurt. Ayoko na maisip nya anything na hindi nya makuha is because of the baby brother. (I don’t want Kyle to think that he can’t get anything because of his baby brother.) One of the major changes that affect Kyle is how he can’t make a lot of noise when Kurt is sleeping. Sometimes Kyle will feed sad and frustrated. I’ll explain to him, “You know, when you were a baby, we also kept quiet. The whole house was so quiet. You were very lucky because, at that time, there were no other babies that will disturb you. With Kurt, I need my good kuya, my loving kuya to understand and help baby get good sleep.” I try to make Kyle understand that we did the same thing for him so he won’t feel hindi na ako makapaglaro (I can’t play anymore) or I can’t make noise anymore kasi anydan na si Kurt (because Kurt is already there). I try to make him understand that all babies need a quiet place to sleep as part of growing. Those are the things I explain to him and he eventually understood. There are times when he would be the one to tell me, “Mommy, quiet because baby’s sleeping.” When he goes inside the room, he’ll tiptoe and be quiet. When I go over to check what he’s doing, he’ll show me with his hand, “Ssshhhhh!” He understands and I will always explain things in a way that would not make it sound like Kurt is the reason. I don’t want him to blame Kurt for anything.
I also made a rule – don’t compare the two children. Avoid saying things like “Kurt is better” because that’s what feeds the jealousy and hate. It’s really a no-no, making comparisons between them. Sometimes Kyle will ask, “Who’s cuter?” I’ll answer, “Both of you.” Sometimes I’ll say, “Baby Kurt is cute, ikaw naman, guwapo (and you’re handsome).” Walang “mas” (nobody is “more” or “better”). Saying that one is more than the other will really hurt their feelings. Yun goal mo dapat ay (Your goal should be) for him to love and not hate or be jealous of his younger sibling. Don’t give him any more reasons to feel insecure and to be jealous of the new baby. Once you start comparing, that’s when sibling rivalry comes in. So I really try to avoid that.
I also try to involve my firstborn in some mild activities with the baby. Since Kurt was just really small at that time, I didn’t have the brothers do any physical activities. They were more simple activities like watching TV together. I would also tell Kyle that when Kurt grows up, he should help me teach his brother. I actually tell Kyle that Kurt is also his baby, not just mommy and daddy’s baby. I call Kurt “your baby” and say, “You have to take care of your baby,” so that he will feel the ownership and responsibility. Feeling nya (He’ll feel or think), “Oh, I’m in now charge and mommy trusts me to be in charge of my baby brother.” It’s also something that makes him feel proud.
I’m actually quite lucky that I was able to get Kyle to form a bond with Kurt even while I’m pregnant. Kyle really loves his brother and he doesn’t react the way some other firstborns react when the baby is around. I heard stories from friends where their firstborn will refuse to be in the same room as the baby. When the mom is feeding the baby, the firstborn will say things like, “Bring the baby out. I don’t want the baby here.” I really hoped that those things won’t come out of Kyle’s mouth.
Fortunately for me, Kyle didn’t have those issues. May acceptance sa kanya. (There’s acceptance on his part.) Ayaw lang niya yun uunahin ko si Kurt. (What he doesn’t like is when I put Kurt first.) There will be times when I’m nursing Kurt and he will climb next to me on the La-Z-Boy. He’ll try to squeeze in even when there isn’t enough space and he’ll feel rejected if I tell him, “Don’t do that.” He’ll start to feel sad and ask, “Mommy, you said I’m always first, right?” I’ll correct him and say, “No, if I need to, I’ll feed you first. But not all the time.” There will be times when I need to feed Kurt and Kyle is still playing, so I’ll take care of the baby first. Kyle will ask, “Why was Kurt first?” I’ll tell him, “You weren’t ready to eat yet and Kurt was already hungry.” I didn’t want to just appease Kyle’s feelings and let him think, “Ah okay, lagi akong una kay mommy. (I’m always first for mommy.)” I did that for a while, putting Kyle first, but I realized it was wrong. Napasok sa utak nya, “Okay whatever, ako naman lagi una eh. Second lang si baby. (I’m always first, anyway. Baby is only second.)” When I noticed that Kyle starting thinking that way, I caught it and corrected it immediately. I told him, “Both of you are my sons. Both of you are my babies. There is no number one or number two between you. You guys are brothers and I don’t want you to feel jealous. Especially you, you’re the kuya. Jealousy is not good. I want you to love each other, not get jealous of each other.” Luckily, Kyle understood the concept and stopped questioning me after.
I want to end this article with a story. One of the changes that I worried about was Kyle grinding his teeth. It got really bad because I noticed that he would grind his teeth all night. My research told me that it was a response to stress and I spoke to Kyle’s pediatrician about it. After the check-up, the pedia confirmed that Kyle is stressed. When I asked Kyle about it, he didn’t say anything. He wasn’t telling me that he’s unhappy but all I saw was the sad Kyle. The only reason I can think of is Kurt. So one night, before going to sleep, I tried to have open communication with Kyle. I asked him, “Are you happy or sad?” He said he’s happy. I asked, “Do you love your baby brother?” Yes naman daw. (He said yes also.) Then I said, “Do you feel that mommy doesn’t love you?” He was quiet. I asked further, “Are you scared that mommy won’t love anymore because we have baby Kurt? Are you sad about that thought?” He nodded. So I said, “No. Why do you feel that?” Instead of answering, Kyle just hugged me. He really didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t force it. He might not be ready and he probably wants to keep it to himself. All I know is I need to make him feel and understand that we love him. I told him that I love him very much and even if there’s baby Kurt, mommy will always love him. Even when he grows up, I will always love him. In hindsight, maganda rin syang sitwasyon (it was also a beautiful situation) because we became closer after that.
I hope this helps reassure you that your child is experiencing something that all firstborns go through when they have a new baby brother or baby sister. There are small things we can do to help in the transition but it will never be stress-free. It’s part of motherhood and we just embrace it. What matters is the relationship that you build with your child through the challenges.